Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ubuntu 8.04 Beta: A second install

When I upgraded my 7.10 installation to 8.04, audio support broke during the process. When I went Googling for possible causes (and hopeful fixes) I ran across the rather snarky comment from a developer that 8.04 was an alpha, and as such if you wanted everything To Just Work then you needed to install outright rather than upgrade. Considering that technically he was correct (but flying in the face of personal positive experience with past upgrades) I stuck the 8.04 beta CD in rhea and performed a completely new install. And sure enough, sound support worked again.

The problem was the video screen. I have, up until this release, never had any problems with configuring high resolution after Ubuntu was installed. We're not talking about successful guessing with the Live CD, we're talking about a complete installation (or upgrade) with all the proper bits. And I'm talking about alphas, betas, and final releases. Until now, that is, with Ubuntu 8.04.

I run my monitor, an ancient Sony E400, at 1600 x 1200. System | Preferences | Screen Resolution in beta 8.04 doesn't know what kind of monitor I have and fixes it at 1280 x 1040. If you look below you'll see everything I'm complaining about except the resolution.


To fix this problem I went looking for nVidia settings via synaptic, found it (nvidia-settings), and installed it. I then had the tool I needed to fix the resolution, NVIDIA X Server Settings.

When it's installed it winds up on the System Administration menu. When you open it the first time it shows up on the desktop in 'cramped' mode.


Selecting any of the entries (such as X Server Information) opens up the application to its proper screen size.


The entry we're interested in is the second, 'X Server Display Configuration'.

You'll note that the nVidia tool does identify the monitor attached to my system and it also properly identifies (and allows me to set) both resolution, refresh, and (on the 'X Screen' tab) color depth. I was able to dynamically set and test screen parameters just like I would have under Windows XP. The only problem was saving the changes. Xorg still uses a text configuration file (/etc/X11/xorg.conf), and to save the changes I had to first save them to my home directory, then, as root, move it to /etc/X11. Just to be on the safe side I made a backup of the original configuration file before moving the new one over. After those changes I reset the X server ([Ctrl][Alt][Backspace]) and everything was back to normal screen-wise. And before you comment, I'm well aware of Applications | Other | Screen and Graphics Preferences. I've invoked it, worked with it a bit, and frankly it's little better than Screen Preferences. Two different screen resolution applications in two entirely different locations that both perform poorly is a major usability issue that needs to be fixed before 8.04 goes live. But based on history and experience I doubt it will. If you've got an nVidia graphics card or chip on your system, then install the nVidia management tools. You'll be glad you did.

One other annoyance concerns gnome-screenshot. For some inexplicable reason it is removing the window border on individual window captures, regardless of how I set it. It didn't start this until 8.04.

Rather than leave this post on a sour note, I'd like to extol the virtues of one of Ubuntu's and Debian's better (if not killer) applications: synaptic. This application, and the underlying repository architecture make managing applications a true joy. The more I work with all the tools the more I discover, and the more I like. For example, I was grossing about how there was no history trace for installations, upgrades, and removals of software. I was wrong. Under the Synaptic Package Manager, on the File menu, is the History selection which brings up the History window.

With the history window you can either browse (like above) or search and then browse the results. Synaptic has been a powerful tool for some time, and combined with Add/Remove under Applications, gives the user a quite powerful pair of application management tools. It makes finding and installing applications drop-dead simple compared to Fedora and openSUSE.

Finally, I'd like to write several postive comments about Firefox 3 beta 4. It really is fast, faster than Firefox 2. What's more, a number of little Firefox annoyances have been fixed. One that always gets to me is when I'm writing a blog entry with Blogger's editor and I want to add a link. On earlier versions of Firefox, when I clicked the 'Link' button to add a URL to a selection of text, the cursor would display it's selection image (the clinched fist), and sure enough, it would be carrying the URL of the Link icon. I got into the habit of clicking outside the Link dialog to make it drop, otherwise I'd wind up with a URL to that little icon in the dialog's text box. That seems to have been fixed with Firefox 3 beta 4. It's still a bug on Firefox 2, because europa is still running Ubuntu 7.10 and Firefox 2.0.0.13, and i encounter it all the time.

Hey. Like I've said many times before. A bad day with Linux is better than a good day Windows. And there are far more good days with Linux than bad.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I had a very similar problem after installing a clean 8.04, everything is working perfectly now. (Upgrading from 7.10 to 8.04 messed up my video settings badly, no amount of xorg.conf messing could bring them them back)

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